Jennifer Maggio

10 Things Your Teenagers Wish You Would Talk About

10 Things Your Teenagers Wish You Would Talk About

            There is no denying the teenage years can be difficult parenting years for inexperienced parents who are ill-prepared for the challenges that await them. I often smile when new parents talk about the challenges of the proverbial “terrible two’s.”  I think to myself. You have no idea the journey awaiting you in ten years!  The truth is, the joy of seeing your little boy or girl evolve into a young man or woman can often be usurped by the challenges of independence, trust, boundaries, and curfews.  Learning to navigate the appropriate balance of freedom with responsibility can be tricky waters. Admittedly, when my oldest two children were embarking upon this unchartered territory in my own home, I often feared that I was not doing most of it right.  I talked too much. I was not talking enough. I punished too quickly. I didn’t punish quickly enough. I threatened.  There was too much grace, then not enough.  I shouted more times than I care to admit.  

            Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV). This is one of the most often quoted Scriptures, and it sounds great. It is the end goal. The hope and faith we stand on.  But the steps it takes to actually “train them up” can be difficult to discern. Today, I am happy to report that I made it through the parenting teen years alive, and the kids survived, too!  We have such a rich and meaningful relationship now, and we have had the pleasure of exploring those pesky teen years.  I learned some things about me along the way, as you will too.  Here is some wisdom that I want to impart from myself (and my now young adult children).  There are 10 things teens want you to talk about. Here goes:

  1. Your past.  Your teens want to know who you were when you were a child, teen, and young adult. What did you do when you were “cool”? What did you learn? What did you like and dislike?  Explain to them the great and not-so-great choices you made in those years and how they shaped you into who you are today.  It is important to have a healthy balance of not over-sharing the good or bad in that too much good can make your teen feel like they do not measure up, especially if you did not deviate too far off the beaten path.
  2. Anything.  Communication can be more difficult in the teen years. They often value their personal friendships as more important than family in these years. Too often, parents shut down communication altogether.  Frustration and disappointment can be the culprit.  Even when teens resort to one-word responses, e.g., “Fine.” “Yes.” “Good.”, believe it or not, they still do want to have conversations with you.  Often teenagers are experiencing changes within themselves that they do not fully understand or know how to articulate. Hormones can cause them to be emotional or angry or a litany of other feelings.  It is our job as parents to keep the lines of communication flowing. Have fun. Dance with them. Laugh. Talk about their hopes and dreams without criticism or advice.  Even if it is difficult, stay at it.
  3. Sex. Now, you knew this one was coming. Naturally, the pre-teen and teen years are when most become interested in sex.  Let’s face it. Everyone and everything is talking to them about sex, so why not us? For example, did you know food can now be considered “sexy”?!  It’s pretty ridiculous.  We have to be open, honest, and forth-coming with information. They are discussing the topic with someone, let it be you.  Hint: The conversation cannot simply be about not doing it, either!
  4. Forgiveness.  There will be a point along the journey when your teen disappoints you. They will break the rules, make a bad choice, or say something that catches you completely off guard. This is normal. It is expected. We did it also.  Having the ability to quickly forgive your teen exhibits a level of grace that parallels our Heavenly Father’s love and forgiveness for us. Your forgiveness will strengthen your walk with the Lord, and hopefully, theirs.  Likewise, it is important for you to forgive yourself for the mistakes you make as a parent. Speak life over the situation. Speak hope. Speak encouragement. Forgive and move on.
  5. The positive.  I once heard a Christian author say that Christian parents tend to lean too far to rules and not close enough to grace. I would give them credit if I could remember who it was! Talk about wisdom!  We want our kids to have great lives and be fruitful adults. We want them to serve the Lord all the days of their lives.  That said, when there is any evidence, any at all, that they are not going to stay on the path, we panic. We begin to focus on the negative. We nag. We replay last year’s missed curfew. May I just encourage you to find something positive to speak over your teenager every single day? This can be especially challenging if they have made a series of poor choices, but this is important. Very important. They need to know that you still love them. They need to hear that they have not messed up too bad. They need to know that despite a hundred wrong choices, your love is still there waiting on them.
  6. Finances.  Young adults are often ill-prepared to handle the financial challenges of adulthood.  They have no idea how to pay bills, manage money, and purchase a home, a car, or plan for their futures.  Often, college or high school does not teach this information in an effective way, if at all, so the responsibility is solely hours. Take a financial class with your pre-teen or teen.  Sit with them to balance a checkbook. Open a small checking or savings account for them. Have them grocery shop for you.  Have them assist in bill payment. These practical life lessons are ones that will serve them well later.
  7. Trust.  Discuss how your teens can earn trust, keep it, and rebuild when it has been broken.  Again, this goes back to navigating disappointment.  Sometimes, when our children have broken our trust, it is easy for us to completely shut down. We may say things, such as, “I knew it. I knew he would mess this up.  I will never allow him to drive the car again.”  While I strongly believe in consequences for poor choices, I do not believe they should be given a life sentence. Keep the dialogue open about how your teen can rebuild broken trust.  In the same way, if you have found it difficult to extend trust in the first place due to some poor past decision, keep those conversations flowing, and most importantly, give a game plan of ways that that trust can be built.
  8. Freedom.  Proverbs 22:6 refers to the “going.” Train them up in the way they should go. This means they should and will eventually leave you.  Your ultimate goal, as a parent, is that your children will one day find independence (with the exception of those who may have additional special needs).  Even in cases where there may be some special needs, the goal has to be to create as much independence within your child as is possible and reasonable.  This means we must provide some freedom.  Do not hold the reigns too tight.  It does not prevent mistakes. (Trust me! Been there, done that!)  Allow them to make mistakes and grow from them.  This is truly the best time for them to make mistakes while still within the safety of your home.  If we fail to issue enough freedom due to our own fears, it is likely they will leave the nest and maximize their new-found freedom in ways we never expected or hoped.
  9. Their futures. Regardless of how much attitude your teen throws your way or how seemingly nonchalant they are about their futures, rest assure, they care.  They care more than they want you to know.  They want to know they will be okay. They want to know that they can make it on their own. They want to know that they will one day be able to figure out life and a career path and a future spouse. Talk with them about their hopes and dreams and fears and potential. Explore possibilities. Give them the margin to explore without shooting down ideas. 
  10. Authentic Christianity.  Teens can smell fake a mile away. They witness the gossip, the judgment about little Susie’s poor choices, the hypocrisy we sometimes live in.  Teenagers are not falling away from churches in droves because they are not open to a relationship with the King of Kings. They are falling away because they sometimes see a misrepresentation of Christ through religion and traditionalism and faking it.  Talk openly about what Christ has done for you. Share your imperfections often and honestly. Be transparent about the hope offered in Christ. Balance the weight of sin with the joy of knowing that a true relationship with the Father changes lives.  They want to know! They need to know!

 

Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Trung Thanh

Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Daystar Television, The 700 Club, and many others. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and currently serves more than 1,500 churches.

The Life of a Single Mom has served 406,000 single mothers over the last decade and counting.  Maggio is an author of several books, including The Church and the Single Mom. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.

Photo Credit: Unsplash: Trung Thanh

Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues including The New York Times, Daystar Television, The 700 Club, and many others. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and serves more than 1,500 churches and 71,000 single mothers annually.  She is an author of several books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She also hosts the podcast Single Mom 101, which you can find at LifeAudio.com. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com or check out her Facebook and Instagram pages.


The Secret to Happiness

The Secret to Happiness

            The endless demands of changing diapers, working two jobs, juggling parenthood, sisterhood, the piles of dirty clothes and laundry, balancing countless balls in the air….the weight of it all seems too much to bear sometimes, doesn’t it? If we are not careful, we find ourselves longing for the next season. We think about how much easier it will be when the kids get potty-trained, start school, or begin driving. We think about how much free time we will have when they go away to college or begin their young adult lives. We dream of finding a new season that will be easier, lighter, more meaningful, and ultimately, one where we will be happier.

            The writings of Paul to the church at Philippi give us the key that unveils the truth to finding true happiness.  “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.  I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty one, plenty or little. For I can do everything, through Christ who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:11-13.  The secret to finding happiness is in the day-to-day. It is being fully present in every moment, not secretly longing for the next. It is eye contact and deep breaths and laughing….a lot. The joy of the Lord is indeed our strength – the joy of being in His presence and being aware that He is in the details. He walks with us. He does not leave us. The thought of learning to be content in every situation seems simple but can be hard to actually live out. Read on for some tips to uncover how to do just that!

  1. Forget everything except Jesus1 Corinthians 2:2 says, “For I decided that while I was with you, I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.”  What does that actually mean? How do you do that in day-to-day living?  What does it look like? 

a)  Forgetting everything else means forgetting the past.  It means forgetting what they did and what you did. It means letting go of bondage that holds you down.  It means forgiving, even when they did not deserve it. 

b)  Forgetting everything else means forgetting to get offended.  When they make you mad and hurt you, and are unfair to you, it does not matter.  You are carrying the hope that they need. You smile with genuine joy.  You forgive with ease.  You do not have to be offended. Your savior was crucified that you may be set free.

c)  Forgetting everything else means seeking Jesus daily and hourly and in some instances minute by minute.  The question is, “Father, what would you have me to do today? How can I serve you? How can I bless you? How can I honor you? The prayer daily must be, “Father, direct my steps.  Show me hurting people at work.  Help me bless my boss by working with excellence, being on time, and remaining humble.  Help me to show kindness to a stranger in Wal-Mart or a cashier who has a less-than-positive attitude.” 

    2.  Trust.  1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.” 

a)   What does He say He will do?  He will keep you strong. He will protect you, fill you with courage, and mount you up on wings like eagles. He will place you as the head and not the tail.  He will love you and never leave you and spend eternity with you.  He will sustain and provide every need and place the lonely in families and speak to you.

b)  What has He done for you before?  What has He rescued you from? Has He provided a meal when you did not know where it would come from? Has He sustained your parenting when you did not know how you could do it? Has he moved mountains? Has He created a river in the middle of a dry wasteland? When all else failed in your life, did not Jesus shows up? Rest assured, He will do it again?  Peace comes in trusting that God is who He says He is.  It knows that no matter what, it will all work out. It is not in lying awake all night fretting about tomorrow. It’s not in trying to figure it all out. It’s in living a righteous and holy life that honors God, then trusting that He will work it all out.  Peace comes in the trusting, and when peace comes, joy comes.  True happiness is in walking in the peace that God’s got this.

Trust becomes hard when you have been hurt and disappointed by those you thought loved you. Trust is hard when the hopes you have had have been crushed repeatedly, but God is faithful. He who promises is faithful. Learning to trust the Lord allows us to truly rest in each season and find happiness in each and every one of those seasons.

3.     Choose joy.  The joy of the Lord is our strength.  What is joy in the Lord?  This Joy is the eternal hope that what you walk through today is temporary.  It knows that there is something to look forward to.  The joy is in knowing that the temporary pain will end. What you are experiencing right now will end, and joy comes in the morning.  I cannot begin to fathom in my mind to know when your morning will come, but I do know joy is coming.  And so…..I could hang out a: I don’t feel like it. I don’t want to. I’d rather sit in the corner, complain, sulk and cry, but Father, today I choose joy. I choose truth. I choose your Word. I live by it when I don’t feel like it, when I don’t see fruit from it, and when the world seems against me. I stand firm. I choose joy today. I choose joy tonight. I choose joy in my Spirit when my heart does not feel it.  I make a conscious choice this day, this moment, to choose joy.

4.     Retrain your thinking. Stinking thinking is a habit. More than likely, this is a habit we developed through childhood, through a divorce, through disappointment, through hurt or pain.  It has been a fallback move. It often becomes our go-to.  You are a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17.  Sour responses have become a habit.  Bitterness becomes a habit.  Eye rolling and seeing the glass half empty becomes a habit. But do you know what else becomes a habit?  Choosing to respond in love, despite their words, speaking life in spite of hardships.  We will fix our minds on whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.  This is our focus.

When a thought comes in, we determine its merit. Is it true? Does it line up with what God said about them or me? Does this thought add value to my life? Yes, it is true he cheated on you. Yes, it is true your boss is not fair. Yes, it is true what they did was not fair. But, it is also true that you must forgive and move on and live your life free from bondage. We have control of our thought life. Walk in the authority you have been given. Cast down every lie of the enemy that you so you may live free.

5.   Surrender and Submit.  Surrender to Jesus being the Divine authority in your life. Submit to His authority. Obey.  We are miserable and unhappy because we, as believers, choose not to honor Him in our thoughts and deeds. When we do not live according to His will, we are miserable because we are His children.  We live lukewarm lives, straddle the fence of holiness and worldliness, and then expect to be free and happy.  We cannot live two lives.  Now, hear me clear.  Christianity is not perfectionism.  We all will fail every day, so we are not called to live perfect lives. We are called to live in a way that honors Him. We are called to apologize, submit, live humbly, and repent when we have failed, then Get back up and do it again the next day. 

What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.  Ecclesiastes 3: 9-12 

14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.  1 Peter 3:14-15.  

There are people counting on your happiness.  They are counting on your indescribable joy.  What does happiness look like? It looks like laughter.  It looks like laughing so hard you near wet your pants. You laugh so hard your belly aches.  You feel light, not heavy and burdened.  

Photo Credit: © Photo by Jacqueline Munguía on Unsplash

Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Daystar Television, The 700 Club, and many others. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and currently serves more than 1,500 churches.

The Life of a Single Mom has served 406,000 single mothers over the last decade and counting.  Maggio is an author of several books, including The Church and the Single Mom. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.

 

 

Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues including The New York Times, Daystar Television, The 700 Club, and many others. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and serves more than 1,500 churches and 71,000 single mothers annually.  She is an author of several books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She also hosts the podcast Single Mom 101, which you can find at LifeAudio.com. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com or check out her Facebook and Instagram pages.


How to Pray and Leave Your Burdens at Jesus' Feet

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT)

This is probably one of the best, and most comforting, Scriptures in the entire Bible. Come to me. There is hope. There is rest waiting for you and me. Oh, how our weary souls need solace, peace, and true rest. The weight of the world is often seemingly resting on our shoulders. The burdens of financial pressures, parenting woes, unreasonable supervisors, gossiping neighbors, troubled marriages, and health concerns can be overwhelming.  The exhaustion of wanting to have and do it all, while having the perfect work-life balance, is ever-present in most of our lives.  The very idea of sitting at the feet of Jesus, not focused on our own problems, worries or concerns, sends chills down my spine and an unexplainable peace over me, as I think of it. That type of peace and rest is, in fact, available to us, as Believers, every single day. So, how do we simply pray and leave the burdens?

It was some years ago, when I was struggling during a particularly overwhelming period of time in my life, that I was praying about this very thing.  I would pray, “Lord, I know your yoke is easy, but how do I let it go and not keep picking it back up?”  This immediate vision came to me. I was walking along a dirt road and I was carrying some type of heavy bags. Every few minutes, I would pick up another heavy bag, until I was at the point of being barely able to move.  Then, a man came driving by with a truck and shouted, “Need a lift?” And I responded, “No, I’ve got it.” He drove away shaking his head. It was as if the Lord was showing me that His promises of rest are available every day and yet, I choose not to give my cares to him.

In a practical sense, there are four things the Bible teaches on how to lay down the burdens. Take a look at Philippians 4:67 (NLT).

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all He has done. Then, you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

There are four steps in these verses that give us clear directions on how to experience this precious peace and lighten our burdens as Jesus promised.

Photo Credit: © GettyImages/ipopba

woman praying with bible open outside

1. Do not worry about anything.

The Scripture does not say not to worry about anything, except if you have cancer, a really difficult life, a failing marriage, a broken heart, legal trouble, death in the family, financial challenges, or any number of other things. It says not to worry about anything. Now, this one is hard.  Most of us have been conditioned to worry, since we were small children. From childhood you heard your parents say things that exhibited worry and fret. It’s the way of the world and certainly, what we have been conditioned to do.  But the Holy Spirit gives us self-control. We can control our thought pattern.  When worry enters your mind, commit to training your thought life to immediately respond, “Nope, this is not how I have been created. I am not a creature of worry. I am a creature of faith.”  This must become your constant prayer.

2. Pray about everything.

In the Philippians 4:6b, it begins “instead.” In other words, in lieu of.  Instead of choosing to worry about things, choose to pray about everything.  Detail the nuances of your life before your Father. Tell Him about the challenges you face. Tell Him about the fears that keep resurfacing. He cares about the things that concern you. Bring them before Him. Pray about everything and then give it to Him in trust that He will handle it.  Stop talking about it to others. Stop obsessing over it. Stop letting it consume your days and thoughts and peace.  Give it to Him and then keep giving it to Him.  It may make take you a thousand times of giving it to Him to condition yourself not to keep taking it back.  We simply cannot handle it. We are not big enough, smart enough, or powerful enough; the fact is, honestly, we were not built to carry this load. But oh, how our Heavenly Father is!

3. Tell God what you need.

Be specific. Father, I need rent money for this month. I have been working faithfully and the medical bills have mounted.  Help me to see your hand in this. Move the mountain.  Tell Him and then have the faith to see Him do it. Be consistent, persistent, and insistent.  You have access to the very throne of God. You are the head and not the tail. You are a city on a hill. Your Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Is anything too hard for him?  Of course not.  Keep talking. Keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep praying. 

4. Thank Him for all He is done.

Begin to praise the past provision. Thank Him for His faithfulness, His sustaining power, His grace, and his death on the cross. Begin with the details of your life. Thank Him for your car, housing, children, friends, church, and safety. Thank Him for your health, your spouse, your family, and job.  The list of gratitude should be endless. Fill your spirit with thanksgiving and praise.  Begin to worship Him in all His goodness. Despite the problems you face, He is good and faithful.  Despite the heartache you fill, He is still the healer, the peace-giver, and the sustainer of all things. Despite your weakness and feelings of being unable to move on, He is strength. Keep thanking Him.

Do you know what the Bible says after all that? “And Then…” It is after those four steps are completed you will experience peace that exceeds everything and anything we can understand.  As we condition our hearts and minds to fully surrender to these four steps, we begin to see God’s hand at work in those difficult areas of our lives.  Now, let’s be perfectly clear, I do not pretend that building this habit is will be easy, particularly if you have had decades to practice worry! But it is attainable.

As Believers, we posse a different type of hope that the world does not have or understand. We have peace that has been gifted to us through Jesus Christ. If we find ourselves bundled on the floor somewhere like unbelievers with no hope every time challenges come, then what makes us different than them?! We have the treasure trove of goodness before us! This world is hard, messy, cold and sometimes heavy. But the promise that as we continue to seek God’s will and His Kingdom, we will have special rest is truth for our lives.  Begin to pray about this even now that God would give you the self-control to stop the worrying, the patience to wait on a solution to the problem, the faith to continue pressing in and believing, even when everything around you seems to screaming otherwise.

Be reminded that He, who promises, is faithful. Be reminded that the same God who rescued you from THAT thing – that thing in your past that was hard and heavy – will, in fact, rescue you from THIS thing. It will not be in your timing or your way, but it will be perfect and the best part? The end result is always beauty for the ashes of hurt, pain, and disappointment. The end result is always better than we could have ever orchestrated. 

Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues including The New York Times, Daystar Television, The 700 Club, and many others. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and currently serves more than 1,500 churches.

The Life of a Single Mom has served 406,000 single mothers over the last decade and counting.  Maggio is an author of several books, including The Church and the Single Mom. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.

Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Ben White

Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues including The New York Times, Daystar Television, The 700 Club, and many others. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and serves more than 1,500 churches and 71,000 single mothers annually.  She is an author of several books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She also hosts the podcast Single Mom 101, which you can find at LifeAudio.com. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com or check out her Facebook and Instagram pages.


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